This month I attended the first Modern Widows Club Empowerment Weekend. Close to 150 widows were there. I had a lot of trepidation about attending since I have assiduously avoided being lumped with other widows simply because of our common loss. As the Modern Widows Club (MWC) founder Carolyn Moor said on the first evening, it is brave “to walk into a room of widows and hold yourself in that space.”
There was so much good energy in the room throughout the weekend, and we felt safe sharing our stories with one another. We wore nametags and most of us had a ribbon attached to them with the cause of our spouse’s death: cancer, suicide, heart attack, car accident, etc. Besides asking from where a woman hailed, the next most common question was, “How far out are you?” When I answered that I was thirteen months out, most looked at me with sympathy and told me my grief journey had just begun. The general rule of thumb is not the one year we’ve all heard, but three years of grief-processing. Many of those in attendance had lost their spouses years earlier, or had even re-partnered, yet found called to be there.
I learned so much from these women!
This post covers a few points about self-compassion and self-awareness. Next week’s will have thoughts about dating and re-partnering.
Among the amazing speakers was the director of Compassionate Tampa Bay, Brett Cobb. He spoke to us about having self-compassion – far different than self-pity! Brett said a focus on the past trauma leads to depression; thinking of the future creates anxiety. Building on an earlier session of meditation, he recommended that as we go through the grief journey we simply stop, breathe deeply and, if appropriate, reach out to someone. Widows often are so busy with their to-do lists they don’t give themselves permission to simply be in the moment and replenish their energy.
We all know the power of physical touch, and some of us no longer have it in our lives without our spouses. Brett suggested two ways to nurture ourselves (in a nonsexual way!): 1) place your hands over your heart to warm it and calm you, or 2) rub the back of your neck and leave your hand there, reminiscent of the way you may have been held as a baby.
Widow and wealth manager Joy Kirsch discussed the way widows may approach finances. She noted, “We make decisions differently than our husbands” and that is okay. My husband, a former Chairman and CEO of a bank holding company, approached finances in more detail than I ever will. I researched and selected a wealth management company to help me achieve my financial goals without requiring excessive oversight by me. Both men and women, she believes, tend to make emotional decisions which we then justify afterwards with logic. We often rely too heavily on one piece of information when making decisions, rather than being open to more sources. (Watch this video to see the impact of our singular focus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo)
A final word from Joy to the MWC widows, “We survived the worst thing we can imagine happening to us. We don’t lack competence; we lack confidence.” Agreed.